On your mark, get set, research!

Yesterday I moved into Jamestown for my summer research and after setting up my books and shopping at Bloom to provision myself for the next couple weeks, I’m ready to formally begin my summer research on ‘Tribe-State Relations in Iraq from 1991-2006’

So, uhhh, where do I start?

My last blog post asks a series of questions, some general and some more specific, about tribalism, Iraqi society, and the current war in Iraq. I know that doing more research will help me answer these questions but I also expect that more research will change the questions somewhat as I have a better grasp for the nuances and interesting routes of inquiry available in the field.

Today though I began by basically taking stock of the books and other sources I’ve been accumulating since I found out about my summer research. I’ve got about 20 books on my bookshelf and may add another 10-15 so there’s a heavy amount of reading to be done, and that’s not counting websites, scholarly articles, and essays, but there’s a catch – I’m not going to pore over every letter in every page. There’s simply not enough time, but more than that, not everything is relevant. One of my tasks is to identify what I need to know, swoop in, nab it, and move on to the next question/topic.

I think my research will more or less follow these stages:

1. Finding sources

2. Researching and note-taking

3. Brainstorming

4. Writing

5. Revising, Editing, and repeating steps 1-4 as necessary

It looks neat and tidy in a numbered list but ‘brainstorming’ isn’t a fixed, finite stage so much as an ongoing Eurake-esque process. I figure that the more sources I imbibe, the more data points there are for my brain to [consciously or otherwise] connect in interesting and insightful ways. This is where note-taking comes in – partially to record the essential points and valuable quotes from my reading but also to write down the insights I’m generating and see how they can fit into a paper.

Earlier this morning I went to Swem and browsed her Iraq section, an expansive array of books covering a variety of topics. (Thank you Swem and your generous benefactors!). I picked out a few books and will start and fully read Tripp’s ‘A History of Iraq’ because it’s good to have a firm grasp of the outlines of Iraqi history, but I’m simultaneously reading Col. Peter Mansoor’s book about his two tours in Iraq ‘Baghdad at Sunrise’. I may start skimming a few other books for relevant passages and sections, so in short, I’ve got my work ahead of me.



PS My last post promised a primer on tribalism. It’s forthcoming, so check back in a week or so.